Ironic Blog Post Of The Day

That said, the core causal mechanism that Murray identifies has to do with the distribution of human capital rather than the meritocratic elite’s public policy priorities (or its taste in alcohol and recreational activities). The creation of an aptitude-based elite, he argues, has inevitably segregated America by talent: More than at any point in our history, the smartest people generally go to high school and certainly to college with one another, move en masse to “creative cities” after college, marry their fellow high achievers and then raise their kids in the cocoons of what Murray calls the SuperZips. The problem with this system isn’t that the meritocrats look down on working-class culture (though “Coming Apart” does get in plenty of digs at elite snobbery). Rather, it’s that the meritocrats don’t participate in working class culture, and that “assortative mating” and geographic clustering have deprived lower-income communities of the social capital (and with it, strong civic institutions, political influence, and so on) that the smart and diligent possess. In this sense, Murray’s analysis follows the late, great Christopher Lasch in arguing that meritocracy works almost too well: Plucking the best and brightest from every walk of life and then encouraging them to live in community almost exclusively with one another means that the rest of the country is deprived of people who otherwise would have been local leaders, local entrepreneurs, the hubs of local social networks, etc.

Written by Ross Douthat, New York Times columnist and former editor of The Atlantic, magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, son of a lawyer and a writer, married to a fellow writer and Harvard summa cum laude graduate, and resident of “SuperZip” Washington, D.C.

I’ve been following the discussions over Coming Apart, on Douthat’s blog and elsewhere, and my brain simply can’t process the fact that fact that many of those who praise the book, including Douthat, don’t involve his own biography in his discussions about “Coming Apart” at all. He’s exactly the kind of ‘elite’ that Murray is criticizing in the book. Douthat has constantly stated that he understands and appreciates Murray’s arguments. But he doesn’t seem to have actually engaged with it in terms of his own life. At least, not as far as I can tell from his writing.

Kidding aside, I do think that this is an interesting thing to think about, though I think that Murray crucially ignores some of the government policy involved in this meritocratic sorting. Zoning laws that prohibit mixed use and demand minimum housing sizes that keep neighborhoods of all one social class. Public school funding based on local property taxes. Etc.

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135 thoughts on “Ironic Blog Post Of The Day

    • Paul Fussell is one of the two keys to understanding the book, I think. The other is Alexis de Tocqueville. Murray puts them both in a more up-to-date idiom, which is good and worthwhile work, I think.

      Written by a resident of 20721 — a SuperZip that is remarkable within its class. Can anyone tell me why? (Bonus points if the first to respond hasn’t read Coming Apart, because Murray mentions the trait that I have in mind.)

      • And to clarify, it’s not that I don’t think that folks like Douthat can’t integrate some of the lessons of the book, but rather that they don’t seem to be introspective about it at all. A guy like Douthat is as elite as they come (in Murray’s reckoning, anyway), but I haven’t seen him tackle what the book means for him.
      • That’s PG County–I’m going to take a stab and say it’s the richest black-majority ZIP in the US? Could well be wrong, though.
      • It’s the largest majority-black “SuperZip” in the country, 82% black and population 14,451.

        The SuperZip designation is based on a demographic that Murray devised, which combines the percentage of adults with a college education and the median family income. SuperZips are in the 99th percentile on the combined score.

        There are a grand total of three majority-black SuperZips, which is depressing.

        And the other two are much smaller — Wilberforce, Ohio, population 123, and Olympia Fields, Illinois, population 3,347.

        PG county is the richest majority-black county in the country. I don’t have comparative data on wealth by Zip code at hand.

      • I’ve taken the online test for the past couple years, but never gotten a call from the show. And my performance this year wasn’t my best, frankly. I’m still hopeful for 2013.
      • Quick question: My guess was that Charles Murray wrote about white people this time to get out from under the race thing that has tarred [?] his previous work.

        I never got into his work because I thought that even if IQ correlates by race, America’s about individuals, and Tom Sowell’s smarter than me and smarter than you, white man. So like, so what.

        So I’ve wondered all these years if Murray’s quantifications of the “heritability” of IQ, even if correlated to race, wasn’t true in some real way, and provable if we just separate “heritability” from race and look at just caucasoids, metrosexuals vs. hillbillies. And re social trends, in Britain, the whites going feral as here

        http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/dalrymple-derbyshire-2059

      • From the New Criterion article:

        Defy your circumstances; manage to get some scraps of education; win some decent, if low-level employment; stay out of trouble; stay off the dole; maintain some minimal standards of honesty and chastity; and see what happens to you! If you are lucky, the authorities will ignore you; if not, they will actually harass you. Should your less disciplined neighbors make your life a misery, you will get no help from police or social workers. But if you follow your peers into the world of dysfunction and dependency, all the attentions of England’s extravagant welfare state will be lavished on you. You will be given a free apartment furnished with all modern appliances, a regular supply of money, free medical attention, and the doting ministrations of “health visitors,” “case workers,” “counsellors,” and so on.

        Hey, mind your manners, guv’nr! We gots us plenty o’ white trash over here too.

        Americans may find it surprising that most of the people wallowing in this slough of ignorance, illiteracy, promiscuity, bastardy, intoxication, vice, folly, lawlessness, and hopelessness are white English people. Much of what is described here is the sort of thing Americans instinctively associate with this country’s own black underclass.

        He left out “substance abuse,” “domestic violence,” and “contempt for authority.” With those inclusions, though, I can assure both Messrs. Dalrympe and Derbyshire from my personal observations of poverty-stricken people in court that over here on our side of the pond, poverty and its incidents truly do transcend race.

      • Friend Likko, I’ve only linked to that one like, well often. Not really a Derbs fan so I wouldn’t defend him chapter/verse, and the funny thing is that like Theodore Dalrymple [real name: Anthony Daniels M.D.], they’re both atheists.

        Go figure. Or perhaps you already have. ;-)

        Derbs: “There is some satisfaction, I suppose, though of a very melancholy kind, to be drawn from the revelation that sufficiently wrong-headed social policies, persisted in with sufficiently dogged refusal to face simple truths, will visit moral catastrophe on people of any race.”

        Rather than an ideological controversy, this should be a duh.

      • According to what I remember of the summary of “Coming Apart” in the WSJ, the exclusive focus on whites was to avoid having to disentangle the effects of the dramatic change in the race situation from the “mainstream” socio-economic changes.  After all, the book covers the period 1960 to 2010; Jim Crow was still going strong in 1960.

         

  1. But he’s a conservative, and a religious one at that! Isn’t it accepted wisdom that those two criteria exempted someone from being one of the dastardly elites?
    • So it would seem. Santorum called Obama “elite” for wanting all people to get education after high school — as Obama said, you need more than a high school education to be a factory worker these days. But you can bet that Santorum wants HIS kids to go to college (as long as it’s one of the “approved” colleges). That makes him the true elite, by any proper definition of the word.
      • Santorum called Obama “elite” for wanting all people to get education after high school — as Obama said, you need more than a high school education to be a factory worker these days.

        Not necessarily. A guy from my high school class got hired as a developer for a major software company straight out of high school. I myself was hired for a similar position with some college but no degree, as was a friend of mine.

        There’s something very wrong with our economy, where going to college confers a huge income premium even if you don’t actually learn anything relevant to your job. On an individual basis, people benefit from going to college. But we’d all be better off if fewer people went to college.

      • Part of the function of college is “sorting” and “signaling” — separating those with the drive, resources, and persistence to make it through a four-year college degree. It’s really about indicating that you have those intellectual and character traits, as much as any specific things you learn in college.

        I have a degree in Political Science (Policy Analysis), and work in the computer industry. Almost nothing in my college education has anything to do with my day-to-day job tasks. And yet, I consider my college experience completely useful for my later life and career.

      • Snark-
        The problem is that college has come to have a near-monopoly on sorting and signaling those traits. There are many people who have equal drive, resources, persistence as college grads (if not more) but channel it through other means, which unfortunately are less respected and, therefore, do not serve as proper signals.

        The thing that college REALLY does is show which people know how to work within the system to get ahead in the way that the system dictates is the right way to get ahead.

      • There is alcohol over there, attractive people over there, “other” over there…

        Can you still shower, show up on time, hand in a stupid assignment on a timeline, and wait until Friday night to get twisted?

        Congratulations. You’re hired.

      • JB-

        I agree wholeheartedly. College was the easiest time of my life. 15 hour weeks… Food was paid for… All my friends… If it is designed to be a filter, it is a piss poor one.

        My post conceded this point to take on the notionof signaling and sorting.

      • I worked between 15-32 hours a week (depending upon the term) while taking a full load.

        Working while going to school sorta changes the measure.

      • PC-

        I did as well. I was exagerrating a bit for effect. The thrust of my argument is that college doesn’t necessarily require a certain amount of mettle to succeed. A degree, for some, can be an incredible accomplishment. For others, it requires little more than getting out of bed on time more often than not. As such, the degree iself, without context, is a poor signal. And the extent to which it crowds out other signals, the use of it as such is a net negative.

      • Incidentally, I did eventually finish my bachelor’s degree. I learned nothing of any real importance that I had not already learned on the job. It just made it easier for me to get other jobs.
      • I submit, just finishing the degree proves you finished something—anything!—and makes you a better bet than the random sample. And some college is probably better than no college, just for an awareness of knowing what you don’t know. Or knowing that you know something that they don’t. If you follow all that.

        Regardless of what info you learned: I agree w/ Mr. Berg about the significance of what I me learned, i.e., not much. [Although my connoisseurship in pharmaceuticals and alcohol has been of great utility.]

      • Seems to me that the same thing could be accomplished with an optional, more rigorous track in high school. Signals have to be hard to reproduce to be effective, but 10% of a person’s productive lifespan seems like overkill.
      • Allow me to wave my hands here, but I’m fairly certain that a college degree is a bad marker for competency in the workforce. Although it certainly is correlated with gettin’ paid.

        Now, on the other hand, military and Peace Corp service both have something of a positive correlation with output.

      • Now, on the other hand, military and Peace Corp service both have something of a positive correlation with output.

        Not saying that’s not true, but it’s…not consistent with the stereotypes of Peace Corps members with which I’m familiar. What are you basing that on?

    • HAHA! On the other hand, at least Douthat is quite open about being a moralistic scold, unlike David Brooks who like to camouflage it as sociology or his deep study of the social animal and whatnot.
  2. Are Murray’s descriptions of the meritocratic elite offered as criticisms of individuals in that class, or is he just criticizing the system? There seems to be a lot of defensiveness among liberals in response to this book, but having not read it, I don’t know if that’s justified based on his statements or just a function of who wrote it.
    • This is my question as well. And, to take it further, it is interesting that liberals are apparently the ones being criticized, when it is often conservatives who hang their hat on the mantra of “meritocracy”.
  3. Didn’t Douthat write a book about his Harvard years called Privilege? Unless the thesis was about those *other* privileged kids, it seems to me that he is not totally unaware of where he stands. Or am I mistaken?
  4. Douhat is a donkey wrapped in the mangy old lion skin peeled from William F. Buckley’s withered corpse. Christopher Hitchens summed him up nicely:

    As I started by saying, the people who really curl my lip are the ones who willingly accept such supporters for the sake of a Republican victory, and then try to write them off as not all that important, or not all that extreme, or not all that insane in wanting to repeal several amendments to a Constitution that they also think is unalterable because it’s divine! It may be true that the Tea Party’s role in November’s vote was less than some people feared, and it’s certainly true that several of the movement’s elected representatives will very soon learn the arts of compromise and the pork barrel. But then what happens at the next downturn? A large, volatile constituency has been created that believes darkly in betrayal and conspiracy. A mass “literature” has been disseminated, to push the mad ideas of exploded crackpots and bigots. It would be no surprise if those who now adore Beck and his acolytes were to call them sellouts and traitors a few years from now. But, alas, they would not be the only victims of the poisonous propaganda that’s been uncorked. Some of the gun brandishing next time might be for real. There was no need for this offense to come, but woe all the same to those by whom it came, and woe above all to those who whitewashed and rationalized it.

    • Gee Blaise I’ll be happy to take one on the chin for the red team if you’ll show me some liberals willing to step up and acknowledge the moronic stupidity of playing generations of “useful idiots”. :)
      • I’ll jump in here and play the game. But before we move to the liberal side, are you conceding that the conservative movement – the TPers – are comprised of said idiot-types?
      • I’ll concede that there are undoubtedly tea party members who are not brilliant. On the other hand I’ll have to say if what they’re worried about, crushing debt foisted on them and their children by a government bureaucracy run amok spending far beyond its means and degrading the currency and punishing savers well, nothing to disagree with there.

        Even Kim1 was willing to acknowledge some of the multiple sins of the liberal technocrats, diving in with “the projects” and other mega disasters of their own making, all in the name of “doing something” without a bird brain’s idea of what would happen or what could go wrong, until of course it /does/ go wrong and terribly so.

        The conservatives, hang McCarthy on them. He was wrong in his methods and was a miserable excuse for a human being. Unfortunately he wasn’t completely wrong about the communists as history and Soviet era records have borne out.

      • I’ll have to say if what they’re worried about, crushing debt foisted on them and their children by a government bureaucracy run amok spending far beyond its means and degrading the currency and punishing savers well, nothing to disagree with there.

        And they vote not only GOP (which has increased the deficit and the debt at a greater rate than Dems over the last 40 years) but they won’t permit reductions in spending for their favored programs by the GOP. That’s why the TP run GOP is fucking crazy. They couldn’t even agree on any significant deficit/debt reduction during the Hostage Crisis we went thru last year.

        So, yeah, I agree with you that they express the sentiment of cutting spending. And maybe we even agree that they don’t really mean it or even understand the implications. And that’s where the useful idiot thing really comes into play. Especially when douche’s like Ryan and Newt are tying tax cuts for the uber-wealthy into a plan to balance the budget.

      • McCarthy nailed the commie-Dems, plus he had the advantage of enjoying a couple of fingers of bourbon, nightly…er, frequently, which as we all know doesn’t make him a bad guy.
      • Let us suppose for a moment Liberals and Conservatives are evenly interspersed in a relatively straightforward Gaussian-normal distribution from ranting jackass to pellucid intellectual.

        We have racked up a considerable debt over time and packed on even more, what with two wars, one entirely unnecessary, and a godawful recession which required huge government interventions.

        How did things get so bad, this debt situation? Could it possibly be the case that large-scale market deregulation might have led to some of it? The Conservatives demanded the repeal of Glass-Steagall and Clinton, to his everlasting shame, signed off on it. Who set the Federal Reserve tacking ever-closer to the wind, trying to gin up prosperity by lowering the interest rates? That would be Alan Greenspan, noted Libertarian.

        This is not a government run amok on domestic spending. It’s run amok funding wars and bailing out multinational investment houses. We could have papered Iraq in five dollar bills for all the money we’ve spent there. Do not blame the Liberals for these deficits. It simply is not true. You’re entirely correct about the Mega Disasters. Do confine yourself to what can be demonstrated and quit repeating nonsense. You’re far more intelligent than to swallow all that, I know you are.

        What’s more, there hasn’t been an honest Liberal in Congress in many years now. At best, the Democrats look like weak-tea Republicans of yore, rather Governor Romney-ish, truth be told. Who are these Wascawwy Owd Wibbewuls? Enumerate a few of them for me, please. Don’t count Obama in there, he’s no Liberal.

      • Blaise, let’s do some math together. Such fun. New Math at that!

        Bush’s Iraq cost about the same as Obama’s $800 billion in stimulus money, I make it. President gets a trillion to muck with to make the world better as he sees it? Sounds fair.

        And a bail-out or a stimulus or even a war is a one-off. Infrastructure—roads, bridges—build ‘em or fix ‘em. Let’s trillion that if Mr. President so chooses. I can hang.

        The entitlements thing goes on forever, though: half of us financing the other half lately. But half of us are not widows and orphans and invalids. Most of us are valids. Something’s got to give.

      • Here’s what has to give, Tom, ol’ buddy ol’ pal.   The snivelling and whining about Wicked Old Liberals with their Nefarious Schemes to Turn the USA into some Commanust Hell.   That’s just got to go away.  We hear a lot of it from various and sundry and none of it is true. It is bullshit.
      • “…Wicked Old Liberals with their Nefarious Schemes to Turn the USA into some Commanust Hell…”

        Yea, Blaise.  Let’s nip this meme in the bud!  I’m 28, for Christ’s sake!  If that is considered old nowadays…hooooey…

      • Barney Fife: Well, today’s eight-year-olds are tomorrow’s teenagers. I say this calls for action and now. Nip it in the bud. First sign of youngsters going wrong, you’ve got to nip it in the bud.
        Andy Taylor: I’m going to have a talk with them. What else do you want me to do?
        Barney Fife: Well, don’t just mollycoddle them.
        Andy Taylor: I won’t.
        Barney Fife: Nip it. You go read any book you want on the subject of child discipline and you’ll find every one of them is in favor of bud-nipping.
      • But in answer to your question, the Conservatives have raised Faux Outrage to such an exquisite art form, I’m not sure but what their obloquy is nothing but so much Hallmark wrapping paper, gilt foil enveloping the dog turd.   Not to be taken seriously and never unwrapped.
      • Uh, wait- Wardsmith, are you asking us liberals to denounce Stalin?
        Again?

        Geez. I thought after the last 30 years of ritual purification of the demons of sochulizm the gods would be appeased by now.

      • Nope Liberty, if Republicans who weren’t even the racists have to go through ritual purification for 150 years of Democrats crapping on the black race, you’ve only got 120 years to go.

        By all means show me the /single/ famous liberal who fell on his sword about Stalin, I’m all ears. We all know they were useful idiots, the Soviets called them useful idiots, but did a single useful idiot stand up and confess? I must have missed it.

      • WSmith, start small—with the 1996 Welfare Reform, the moral condemnation of those who passed it, and the predictions of social disaster. ;-)

        Dunno if raking the left on Stalin amounts to anything. Saw David Satter on C-SPAN last night—stunning—on how Russia today deals with Stalinism:

        It Was a Long Time Ago and It Never Happened Anyway

        http://www.hudson.org/satter

      • For Russians, Stalin is a difficult topic. On the one hand, he killed a whole lot of Russians (and in Ukraine, Stalin is not a difficult topic). On the other hand, he led them to their defeat of the Nazis. If you look at public opinion polls since the fall of the Soviet Union, you’ll see that Stalin’s reputation in Russia waxes and wanes: sometimes he’s the hero, and there was even a poll a few years ago in which a small but substantial minority said they would vote for Stalin today. It’s a mess over there, and as Putin’s continued popularity shows, Russians want strong leaders. At other times, though, his legacy as a mass murderer has been dominant, and they even have an annual day of remembrance for his victims.

        Honestly, I don’t really blame them. Stalin was a monster, but the Soviet Union was nearly wiped out — not defeated, but wiped out, and Stalin, and the industrialization that his administration had created, was all that stood between the Russian people and total destruction at the hands of the Nazis (of course, part of the reason the Red Army collapsed is that Stalin had killed all the senior officers, but still). That’s still a big part of their cultural memory. Plus, their country has been a mess for 20 years now, and it’s probably nice to think back to when they were at their most powerful.

      • and it’s probably nice to think back to when they were at their most powerful.

        When they suffered 7,000,000 casualties at the hands of the Nazzzzzies? I’m not sure Stalin deserves much credit for that. Or blame really. But you can’t choose your heroes, ya know?

      • Twenty million, if you count the civilians, but they faced 80% of the Nazi military might and won, driving the Germans back thousands of miles in an incredible display of military dominance. At the end of the war, they had gone from a country that in less than half a century had lost wars to Japan and Germany, and gotten their asses whipped by Finland (Finland, for Christ’s sake, and twice!), to a country with a 5 million man army with some of the best equipment in the world (like this), which was occupying the whole of Eastern Europe, that had a production capacity unseen in the history of the world, and was one of two world superpowers. In a lot of ways, it was downhill from there. And there is no denying that Stalin had something to do with their 1945 status, even if they could have been even stronger (frighteningly so) if he hadn’t done some of the monstrous things he did.
      • Synecdoches aside Russia is different than the Soviet Union. Whether a dozen “client” states /really/ wanted to be part of the USSR remains to be seen, my sources (from those “clients”) have saidnot only no but hell no.
        Today’s Russia is a textbook example of a kleptocracy. While current “useful idiots” on liberal sites blame Bush for 9/11, we have the very /real/ example of Putin’s rise to power, courtesy of digging deeper into the link Tom gave us:
        It is all but forgotten now that Putin rose to power as a result of the Second Chechen War. The war, in turn, was made possible by the bombings of Russian apartment buildings in 1999. The bombings were blamed on the Chechens but when a bomb similar to the ones that destroyed apartment blocks in Moscow, Buinaksk and Volgodonsk, was discovered in the basement of an apartment building in Ryazan, the persons who placed the bomb were found to be agents of the FSB (Federal Security Service).
        What is most interesting about 1984 is that Blair (nee Orwell) was a devoted socialist furious at what communists had done to his ideal. Later we’ll get to read the translations of what current Venezuelans think of their fine socialist leader. We can’t read them now of course, they’re having to hide to protect their cajones.
      • So here is the agenda of the current conservative movement; refighting the culture clash of the Cold War and New Deal.

        I wish racism was as dead as Socialism. I wish cracks about the White House with watermelons in front was something that had to be reprinted from an old John Birch Society newsletter circa 1955, instead of right effing now. Or that Sex Crazed Co-eds Going Broke Buying Birth Control Pills! was the title of a John Waters film instead of a headline on Memeorandum.

        I will spot you a Paul Robeson, Alger Hiss, both Rosenbergs and Lincoln Steffens, and hell, I will turn a blind eye to Dalton Trumbo if it makes you happy.

        But do you think that absorb the raging incoherence, economic Lysenkoism, and psychosexual neuroses that ooze from the rotting corpse of the conservative movement?

      • But do you think that absorb the raging incoherence, economic Lysenkoism, and psychosexual neuroses that ooze from the rotting corpse of the conservative movement?

        Lib60, what up with this “psychosexual neuroses” thing? Do we really want to go there?

      • The current Republican war on contraception is a flaming display of psychosexual neuroses.

        No, I wouldnt want to go there, but they keep wanting to drag us there.

      • There is no “current Republican war on contraception.”  This is a phony controversy that you’ve fallen for, apparently.  Romney quite properly slapped Stephanopoulos down for this “silly” question.  Disappointing.

        And even if there were a controversy, Lib60, “psychosexual neurosis” would be quite a highjacking of science against one’s philosophical opponents.

         

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2083863/George-Stephanopoulos-accused-bias-relentless-questioning-Mitt-Romney-jobs-contraception.html#ixzz1np6ns524

        Mr Romney drew applause from the audience while saying: ‘George, I don’t know whether a state has a right to ban contraception. No state wants to.

        ‘I mean, the idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do that no state wants to do, and asking me whether they could do it or not, is kind of a silly thing, I think.’

        Contraception, he said to laughter, is working ‘just fine.’

         

      • Well, when you are right, you are right. There is no war on contraception.

        A war on sex-crazed sluts wanting to get paid for using ocntraception, well, there is that.

        Your evidence is Mitt Romney? really? The man who says he “doesn’t know” if the State can ban contraception?

        “Doesn’t know” as in, he didn’t do his homework the night before and was stumped?

        Or “doesn’t know” as in he doesn’t know what he thinks?

        Or “doesn’t know” as in he thinks it is an open debatable question?

        Seriously man, Mitt Romney is a pretty slippery patch of ice to base your argument on.

      • Wait, we’ve started paying people to use contraception?

        Is there a foundation where donations may be sent?

        In the short term, what are the penalties for riding around with an air-rifle loaded with norplant? Please write back soon.

      • Lib60, you skipped over Stephanopolous starting a stink where there wasn’t one, and you perpetuating it.  I don’t get it.

        Or as the wise Ali G put it, he who smelt it, dealt it.

        Romney did miss Griswold v. Connecticut from almost 50 years ago [!] but of course that means Stephanopoulous did, too—making the former Clinton employee either ignorant or disingenuous here.

         

        Which is it?

      • Langston Hughes. Read his fucking testimony to the HUAC. It’s… illuminating.
        Told ‘em why he wrote poems praising Uncle Joe.
      • Snarky-
        You have to wear it on a placard around your neck.
        And work on a drilling rig wearing a Carhartt jacket for a few years to erase the stain of your elite university degree.
  5. Math’s highly unstable on this one. And queered towards the assholes. One of the top ten (pulled from an onlinesource, as I’m lazy) is on Philly’s mainline.
    My zip has a more educated population than it. Hell, I’m sure we’ve got two or three more educated places here.
    It is severely a mistake to go by merely “got a Bachelors” — you’re getting a different breed of fool — and in general not the creative class. And looking at “how wealthy are you” is also distorting…

    The creative class (and I’ll count myself among them) gets out into the community. They ride the bus, they help out the less fortunate.

  6. TOTALLY OFF-TOPIC BUT…

    … How do you get that “Share” menu to stop popping up every time I load a page? It is highly annoying and just started appearing today…

  7. One thing I’ve witnessed, and research has confirmed, is that being born in the right family and sent to the right schools and segregated into the right communities, doesn’t ensure that intelligence will be passed along and enhanced. Only if the privileged class can prevent the lower class from gaining knowledge or advancing economically will they ever be in a superior position, but the superior position will be based on coercion not merit. The greatest benefits in American society have been pluralism and diversity, the blending of races, cultures, religions, etc. Once a group becomes limited and protected, I believe the group becomes less intelligent and proficient in the long run, not more.
    • While it’s true being born in the right family and trotted through the paces of the right schools and communities, I’ve seen the exact reverse. Education is the trap door through which the children of the poor always fall. Everyone knows going to college has almost nothing to do with your future career: it’s all about the people you’ll meet there.

      Want to mix things up in this society, brew up a fine batch of meritocrats? Send everyone to college.

    • Often when I hear this sort of thing or its opposite, I think back to Nikola Tesla taking a job digging ditches to save enough capital for further development and innovations.
      • Uh, when was that? He went from University to Serbian telephone company to working for Edison to working for himself/JP Morgan to destitution (because he kinda went insane).
      • He did a spectacular job of the “going insane” bit.  Right up there on my list of “really smart people who blew their own minds’ gaskets”.  It’s a comparable list to “rock stars who died choking on their own vomit”.
      • … not nearly so bad as the “we made him go insane” list… *(his paranoid inventions were apparently better than when he wasn’t schizo…)
  8. Apologies if that has been said earlier, but Douthat is a socially conservative Republican. Ergo, he can’t be elite. That’s science.
  9. The general gummint has NO business paying for anyone’s edumacation! People who graduate in some librul arts program and get a Master’s are among the stupidest people on the Earth!
      • Yes, I know, and while there’s much to admire about the olde Virginian, I’m a Tertium Quid, and consequently find a great deal to critique, ergo no funds from the general gummint for anyone’s edumacation!
  10. Aren’t the Reps generally the ones pushing the “meritocracy” angle? Or isthat only when they are looking to maintain established institutions of privilege and power that are inhertly non-meritrocacies? Sounds like the panacea of the free-market at work… Educated, accomplished folk don’t want to return to BF, USA? Tough. Maybe if BF was a little morepalatable to live in for a wider range of people, you’d have more snobs willing to live in and invest (not just financially, but socially and politically) in those areas. My experience is somewhat limited, but I have lived in and visitd some non-SuperZips and find them generally hostile or unwelcome to outsiders views or lifestyles. SuperZips, which tend to be in or near bigger cities, are by their very nature more diverse and willing.

    It is somewhat damned if do and damned if don’t… I can be called a snob to my face in BF when I bemoan the lack of good Indian food there or be called a snob in a book when I avoid BF alltogether.

    • The superzips aren’t where the creative class lives. The creative class lives in 15217, not 15238, and is better demarcated by higher education and less by wealth.New Castle has fantastic Syrian cuisine (among others). It’s way out in the middle of nowhere.Thing is? people got a reason to be hostile to higher education in the sticks. It DOES take all their best and brightest… But we fix that by making farming cool again (lotta retired professors do it around here)…”lack of good indian food” is only a problem if you wanna go out to eat. Making good indian food is just a matter of the right ingredients…
      • Kimmi-I don’t live in BF now, but having spent the entirety of my life living in or just outside big cities, where I live FEELS like BF in many ways.  And here is one reason why…The other day, I stopped at the QuickChek (sort of like a 7-11) to get some butter before work.  It was about 6:45 and the grocery store didn’t open until 7 and I didn’t have the time to wait.  When I took the butter to the counter, the cashier chastised me for “wasting” my money on the QuickChek butter, which is more expensive than the grocery store butter.  She couldn’t fathom why ANYONE would pay more for butter than they had to.  When I shrugged off her rant, she gave me a dirty look and mumbled, “Some people…”Compare this to my regular 3AM visits to the corner store in NYC to by toilet paper, beer, sunflower seeds, whipped cream, and hand lotion, which didn’t draw nary a wink from the cashier.In the former story, I was treated as a snob, for the sin of paying 30-cents extra to save me the 25 minutes it would have cost to drive to the grocery store, wait for it to open, and drive back to where I started, since the grocer was out of the way to my work.  It wasn’t like I was bemoaning the lack of imported caviar or offering people $20 a gallon to pump my gas; I was just trying to get some butter before work.  But I had somehow offended this woman’s sensibilities and drew her ire.  And this was the goddamn cashier, who (theoretically) is paid to be polite to customers!Now, I realize this is but one story.  I have met some incredibly friendly and welcoming people here as well.  But I could easily see someone who is snobbier than I, or engages in snobby behavior without himself being a snob (you could probably classify me as such), being very put off by such interactions and ultimately deciding (after subtly being told) that this isn’t the place for him.It is this understanding that makes me somewhat unsympathetic to claims that folks have obligations to people or places that are unwelcoming to them.  I’m sure this road goes in both directions and I would decry anyone doing the inverse (e.g., people in big cities who rely on tourism complaining about and being hostile to tourists).
      • People got reasons. Sometimes they ain’t the bestest reasons ever — but you gotta understand their reasons, before you can actually address them.The person behind the register probably couldn’t afford the extra 30 cents, and was trying to be nice by “helpin” you out. Many folks would bite their tongues rather than lose the business.Nebby people are annoying wherever they are…
      • Kimmi-

        I have no problem with the woman thinking as she did.  Hell, I agree with her and, under normal circumstances, do not do my grocery shopping at the Quick-Chek.  The problem is, she made no attempt to consider MY reasons.  I would be more willing to consider her response as an attempt at helping if her tone and delivery was anything other than contemptuous.  There tends to be a degree of “not our kind” attitude to people who differ from the dominant culture in BF, USA that you generally do not see in the places where the supposed “snobs” are accumulating.    We could get into a chicken-and-egg debate over how this came to be and the legitimacy of promoting/protecting a local culture and the American history of assimilation and blahblahblah…  But that really diverts from my point, which is: Don’t complain* about a certain subset of the population avoiding or abandoning your parts of this planet if you are hostile or unwelcome to many of the traits that define that subset of the population.

        * I realize that there may be a degree of projecting going on.  I can’t say to what degree Murray or Douthat actually speak for the residents of the areas they are discussing.

      • I just feel like Murray and Douthat aren’t speaking for anyone, really, and haven’t made much attempt to make something actually interesting.

        Oooh! Lookiee! Wealthy people make fences! Whoop de doo la lay.

        I’m supposed to be all astonished by this??

         

        Republican assholes will continue to be Republican assholes. They aren’t the Rulers of Society, nor are they the Creative Class. Cogs in a machine, nothing more.

        Cogs that don’t wanna be cogs anymore, tend to move out of these superzips.

         

        And, dangnabit, nobody’s TALKED about the Deliberate Indebtedness of these Foolz. as deliberately rigged by the Corps they Work For.

      • More on your point,a nd less ranty:

        I worry about my car getting smashed up, whenever I go out into the Sticks. I don’t worry so much about people looking down their nose at me. Even if I am the elitist snob who drives 40 miles for a pizza (it’s better than the ones in the city!).

      • Kimmi-

        *I* don’t pay it much mind either.  But I’m not as tied to identifying myself in such ways and, thus, am less challenged by those identifiers being criticized.  If someone identifies himself as an individual who only eats organic produce and simply MUST have authentic pad thai on a weekly basis and OHBYTHEWAY is also a well-educated, wealthy, creative individual, they likely will take their education, money, and creativity away from an area that scoffs at organic food and recommends the local takeout Chinese please for pad thai.

        Please note, I am not saying one lifestyle is superior to the other.  Really, I think that whatever point Murray/Douthat are attempting to make is either wrong or based on an overly academic, theoretical understanding of the dynamics at play that ultimately offers little of substantive value.

      • And I should say, I don’t go around my new town bemoaning the lack of a good Indian restaurant and pointing out to people that there might be a better cut of meat than that which comes in the discount econopack at the local wholesale store.  I get where I live and willingly chose to live here, because the pros far outweigh the cons.  I’m happy here, even if there are things I miss about living closer to or in the city.  I can deal with being a bit of the “city mouse”.  I just don’t need attitude when I elect to buy QuickCheck butter in a pinch.  That shit doesn’t fly with me no matter where we are.
      • Kimster, thanks for the link. Just think $7 bucks for all that REAL food! My mouth is watering for a decent fish sammich, made by olde Catholic women (Irish or Italian). Dominus Vobiscum!
      • Bob-

        Are your comments intended to refute a claim on my behalf that you can’t find good food in BF?  If so, please know that I neither said nor believe that to be the case.  Some of the best meals I have had were in BF, USA.  My point is only that some people in those parts view a taste for certain foods as snobby or otherwise not acceptable for the area.

      • Bsk,

        re: bob’s ramblings on pittsburgh

        no, I’m pretty sure he’s going off my ramblings on how Pittsburgh pizza sucks… we do make a mean fish sandwich. And a good gyro. And pierogies. And surprisingly authentic Chinese! And you should see the Hindu temple out in Monroeville.

    • I never had one of those, but the fish tacos I had in San Diego and the catfish po’boys I’ve had in NOLA leave me intrigued.
  11. I wanna go visit my daughter in San Antonio and find the perfect chili, made with road kill and desert picked chili peppers, which are one of the few really ‘free’ things you can get.
  12. But he doesn’t seem to have actually engagedwith it in terms of his own life. At least, not as far as I can tell from his writing.

    What exactly is he supposed to do? Quit his job, move to Mississippi, teach in poor performing schools, and wage a one man war against the cultural and institutional tide?

  13. Pingback: The Retroactive Table of Contents : February 24 – March 2 — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

  14. I live in the suburbs of Boston, and I believe that gives me some knowledge of the intersection of the value of egalitarianism (of opportunity, if not outcome) with the interest of grubbing for every fair and unfair advantage for your children that your socioeconomic position makes possible.  Within that context, it’s hardly surprising that many well-meaning commentators (both liberal and conservative) will agree that Murray has identified a serious problem, and even agree that a central part of the problem is the deliberate drawing-away of the “elites” from the “masses”.  But none of that eliminates the incentives that each elite person has to draw away as effectively as possible.  If you search around, you can find articles written by well-meaning liberals who’ve always wanted to see more equality of education, disturbed to discover that when they have kids, they work hard to get their kids “the best education”, which necessarily involves separating them from the children of the less fortunate.

    In regard to government policy, it’s hardly surprising that local government policy in an elite area actively supports the exclusion of the non-elite because that is what the elite residents want.  In the Boston area, “snob zoning” exclusions are universal because school districts coincide with the towns (which in turn have nearly unlimited zoning authority) and are mostly funded by the town taxes.  The only way to maintain a low tax rate with a high per-pupil expenditure is to have a high real-estate-per-pupil ratio.  In one case, a town was threatened with the building of affordable housing.  I found the figures online:  At the current tax rate, a house that cost $400,000 per resident child was break-even for the town’s school budget.  Imagine a family of four living in an $800,000 house.  (The affordable housing proposal was not approved.)

    These effects might be mitigated if the major filtration points (K-12 education especially) become funded by larger governments (i.e., state or federal) so that the incentives for the elites to be physically separated from the masses are smaller.

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